The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
When Good People Love Bad Pictures
It’s summer, so time for a break from serious thoughts about photographs, their meaning and impact. Instead, let’s relax and have a laugh about the pictures that make us laugh. A recent article in the business section of Time magazine describes how Ben Huh, an online entrepreneur, is raking in money from websites featuring goofy and gross photographs that can be hilarious. Check out This is Photobomb, one of his photo-based money-makers, a collection of snapshots and some videos that have all gone awry, for one reason or another. There are wedding shots interrupted by streakers, scene-stealing animals who pop up unexpectedly in vacation pictures, jokers who subtly undermine group photographs, and people seen posing in their homes, overly focused on the camera facing them, and unaware of some of the embarrassing things they’ve left out on display just behind them.
Huh’s first success was the 2007 web launch of I Can Has Cheezburger?, an awful or entertaining (you decide . . .) collection of kitty snapshots overlaid with misspelled and supposedly cute captions. This past March, Huh’s business Pet Holdings started yet another image-driven website—Picture is Unrelated—whose lofty goal is to feature photographs that present “strange moments of human life captured in photographic form and showcase them . . . as a testament to the absurdity of life.” Well, the images posted are never going to rival “Waiting for Godot.” But what all these web sites remind me of is the need we feel to make photographs that are picture perfect, knowing too well that life itself is inevitably messier than pictures of it.